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November/December Issue

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / Letters / President's Message / VVAF Report / Government Relations / Veterans Benefits Update / PTSD Substance Abuse Committee Report / AVVA Report / SHAD/Project 112 Task Force Report / Veterans Against Drugs Task Force Report / Constitution Committee Report / Convention Resolution Report / Healthcare Budget Reform / NamJam / South Korean Veterans / Arts of War / Book Review / Books / Membership Notes / Locator / Reunions / 4 Chaplains /

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By Michael Keating
Shortly after midnight on February 3, 1943, in icy Arctic waters near Greenland, a German torpedo struck the USAT Dorchester on the starboard side far below the water line. Terror spread through the ancient ship. Within half an hour,
the ship plummeted to the bottom of the Atlantic. In that time of chaos and panic and pain, four men—the ship’s four chaplains—brought encouragement and hope to the nine hundred men onboard.

George L. Fox, Alexander D. Goode, Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington helped evacuate the men and distributed life jackets. When all the jackets were gone, they took off their own and gave them away. Linking their arms together, the men— a priest, a rabbi, and two ministers—prayed together as the ship slipped into the sea.

On Sunday, September 10, 2006, as the sun drew close to the waters of Delaware Bay and the shadows grew long and red, the six o’clock ferry left Cape May, New Jersey, on its way to Lewes, Delaware. It passed the weather-beaten, half-sunk hull of the improbable concrete ship Atlantus, then pulled into the bay. The twinkling lights of Cape May concealed the Coast Guard Training Center, where only hours before, an auspicious ceremony had been held at the Guardian of the Sea Chapel.
Hosted by the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, the event honored the 44 new inductees into the Legion of Honor of the Chapel of Four Chaplains, the Humanitarian Award recipient, and the Bronze Medallion recipient.

For a brief time, bathed in the blue and green stained glass of abstracted sea and sky, some of the nation’s great luminaries gathered. Not the ones people read about in the papers, nor the ones who preen on the world stage.

Those gathered in the quiet beauty of the Coast Guard chapel have made careers of quiet beauty. They have done what needed to be done, taken on responsibilities that no one else wanted, and brought comfort and shelter to many who were vulnerable and exposed.

The centerpiece of the ceremony was the distribution of awards, each preceded by a listing of the awardee’s actions that led to nomination to the Legion of Honor of the Chapel of Four Chaplains. The words, like a warm summer rain, were welcome and refreshing.

“Applied his considerable talents in the service of the Vietnam-veteran generation…worked unceasingly for veterans…love, devotion, and concern for
veterans…motivational talks and prayer requests… compassion, integrity, and sincere help…always finds time to talk with the youth of today…constantly involved from Day One in the planning, procurement, organization, and participation in all relief efforts in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

“A godsend to the veterans’ community who acts unselfishly…for 33 years, held an evening flag ceremony…annual campaign to see that needy families have Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners…raising money for toys and gifts for underprivileged children…serves with compassion, selflessness, honor, and dignity.

“He went beyond the call of duty to help those in greatest need…He takes it upon himself to help the sick and needy survive…a catalyst that opened the VSO operation…his commitment and efforts on behalf of his fellow veterans made an impact on many lives…always willing to give more of his time …works tirelessly…given countless hours to assist Vietnam veterans and the newest generation of veterans.”

Bronze Medallion recipients Paul Sutton and Jack Thomas alternately read the citations as fellow Medallion recipient and AVVA President Mary Miller, accompanied by Viola Bostic, executive director of the Chapel of Four Chaplains, handed out the certificates. For the ninth consecutive year, Dennis Beauregard, Ernie Diorio, Bob Stocker, and Margaret Wojchiechowicz worked behind the scenes.

“It was humbling,” said graphic designer Xande Anderer, himself an honoree.
Then suddenly, after a stuttering of flashes for group shots, the ceremony ended. The formal part—the official ceremony—was over, and the family part, the fun part, began.

It’s a short drive to the chapter hall of VVA Chapter 602. Opening the front door, there was a clatter of chatter and laughter while the nose was teased by the aroma of steak, mashed potatoes, and lasagna. It’s a labor of love what the chapter does for the honorees of the Chapel of Four Chaplains each year.
The kitchen was run by Phil Grosskurth, a new chapter member and retired U.S. Navy cook. Even though he gets lots of help, if the steaks are overcooked or the potatoes have lumps, it’ll be Grosskurth who gets the complaints. But he gets the compliments, too.

The servers included Dottie Crawford, Tom and Nancy Ferry, Rich Flax, Lynn Jeffris, Rick and Penny Kraus, John and Connie Malinowski, Joe Pettit, Frank Rippel, and Sandy Zsitkovsky. They filled many a plate while effusing over the Chapel winners and treating them like the quiet heroes they are.

Then, after cheesecake and coffee, people started checking ferry schedules or calculating travel distances to far-flung towns and cities. Allen Hoe, who had traveled all the way from Hawaii to be inducted into the Legion of Honor, was less concerned with immediate getaway plans.

The kids were gathered up. Spouses checked parcels. Chapter 602 members were thanked. Then this year’s Legion of Honor dispersed, slipping into the late-summer evening light of southern Jersey. Off to return to their good works, their often heart-breaking attempts to alleviate human misery.

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